But the course has changed, and new spending will be needed to address desperate need for affordable housing.
It has been a busy budget week, with all eyes on both the federal and provincial governments’ first budgets of the pandemic. Along with our partners, BC Non-Profit Housing Association, we issued this 2021 budget press release in response to the BC Budget. A summary of affordable housing measures in yesterday’s federal budget is available here.
Community housing sector advocates in B.C. acknowledge the government’s commitment to stay the course on its investment in affordable housing. At the same time, with a resurgent housing market nearing a boiling point, it’s clear that new, more significant investments will be needed in the near future to meet the need for homes everyone can afford.
“With Budget 2021, this government remains committed to staying the course on its historic housing investments,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of BC Non-Profit Housing Association. “And yet, the course has changed, and new investments will be required in coming years if we’re to tackle the homelessness and housing insecurity affecting the health of so many British Columbians.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has further eroded housing affordability as growing job losses continue to threaten the ability of low-income individuals and families across the province to live securely in their homes. While many short-term provincial COVID supports have been crucial for weathering the storm – including a rent freeze, the purchase and conversion of commercial properties to house people experiencing homelessness, and a temporary rent supplement program – longer-term affordability needs bold action from the province, above and beyond what has already been committed in previous budgets.
“This government has led the country in making unprecedented and sustained investments in affordable housing and in supporting the community housing sector,” said Thom Armstrong, CEO of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC. “And yet our housing crisis remains so severe that even more will be required if we are to achieve our goal of a safe, secure, affordable home for everyone.”
In pressing the government to do more, housing advocates acknowledge that a $265-million investment to provide supports for people experiencing homelessness, and an additional $500 million in mental health and treatment supports, will improve housing affordability. At the same time, increasing construction and labour costs threaten the ability of the community housing sector to deliver permanent affordable housing on the scale that is needed.
As an example of the additional investments required, the community housing sector will be working with the government in the coming months on a strategy to fund the acquisition of existing purpose-built rental homes to keep them affordable and to provide security of tenure for existing tenants. Housing advocates agree that funding and implementation of that strategy can’t wait for the next budget cycle without making the existing crisis much worse.